Monthly Archives: September 2015

YouTube for Displaying Course-Related Videos

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Submitted by Tarah Raldiris

Last semester, while teaching an introductory psychology course at a community college, I found showing content-related videos in class to be helpful for students to better understand many of the concepts. However, I quickly realized that there often was not enough time to show many of the interesting videos I had found, and some students also expressed a desire to watch the videos on their own time at home. Because of this, I thought it would be useful to develop a YouTube channel that presented videos relevant to the course content that students could access at home. Although I occasionally watch videos on YouTube, I have never been very savvy with navigating the website and knew absolutely nothing about creating my own channel. Luckily, there are plenty of YouTube videos available to teach clueless people like myself how to begin creating a channel!

I currently TA for PSYC 321, Social Psychology, and decided to create a channel, titled “Social Psychology Resources,” that would display videos related to the content specific to that course. The first challenge was figuring out how to develop a channel that contained videos from others’ channels. I watched a video about how to add others’ videos to a playlist and then how to make that playlist visible to the public. With this information, I poked around YouTube for a while collecting videos into playlists that I thought would be useful for the course. I then realized that even though I had added many videos to a public playlist, they were not visible on the home screen of my channel, and users would have to navigate to my “Playlists” page in order to view them. This wasn’t ideal and I wanted my home page to clearly display the videos I had added. I then spent some time learning from more YouTube videos how to redesign my channel’s home page so that playlists could easily be seen and learned how to design different sections with specific videos. This gave the idea to separate the videos into sections related to chapters covered by each exam. So I separated my channel into four different sections that corresponded to chapters 1-4, chapters 5-8, chapters 9-12, and chapters 13 and 14. This would allow students to easily identify and watch videos that correspond to each exam.

Developing this YouTube channel was an entirely new experience for me, but it was easily manageable due to all the how-to videos already available on YouTube. The hardest part for me was (and still is) figuring out how to add my desirable channel art, as large photos are required and I can’t find any photos with large enough pixel dimensions, and my photo editing skills are definitely sub-par. Overall, I’m happy with the way my channel turned out and I can see this being useful in the future if I teach my own Social Psychology course. Not only could students use it to enhance their understanding of concepts, but I could also create homework assignments based around having students watch certain videos I have added to the channel and asking them to either answer questions or write reflection papers on what they learned.

Here is the link to my channel so check it out! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjTpWviScWv1DeVo2pQsAdQ

 

Google Forms for Quizzes and Surveys

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Submitted by Ashlee Sawyer

Because I’m a 214 TA and there appear to be few things that undergraduates despise more than statistics, I have been trying to find ways to shake things up so that we have new (and hopefully interesting) options and things are easier and quicker for me. When I TA’ed over the summer, the professor I worked with used Blackboard to create a survey that gave students a chance to provide feedback on the class that day, and provided her with student attendance for the day. I wanted to implement this, because it was a great way to gain insight into what the students were having trouble with, and because it offers frequent evaluations for you to work from. However, in Blackboard you have to open each question separately to view all of the student responses for that item, and it was a bit tedious, and I was instructed to clear the responses each day so that the same feedback survey could be used each day – So if I wanted to remember what had been shared, I had to take notes.

 

With Google forms, I’ve created a different survey for each week and I have it set up to go into the same Google Excel Sheet, but under a different tab each time. Here is the survey that I created, if you’d like to see: 214 Feedback Survey . It’s very simple and takes just a few minutes for students to fill out. Alternatively, you could use the same survey link each week and have all of the responses filter in to one excel sheet – Google forms provides you with a timestamp for each response, so you’re still able to maintain order that way. You can also sort responses by email, if you collect that information, and you could group each individual’s responses together to track their feedback or progress. I personally prefer to have my responses organized by topic (e.g., Independent t test vs two way ANOVA) so that I can see what common problems are with the material and new ways of teaching that specific lab, but you can definitely change it up to suit your needs.

 

I also use the feedback survey to offer individual help, which students seem to really enjoy. So I tell them that if they provide a specific question in response to the ‘what are you still struggling with’ item, then I can send them an email with an answer. Ideally, I’d love for them to ask me their questions during the lab, and I still actively encourage that, but some people just don’t feel comfortable doing so. I also think that by taking time to respond to their question, they’re able to see that we care about their success and we want them to understand the material and do well.

 

I also created a quiz with review material for their first exam, which you can view here: Review Quiz. The idea behind this was that we wanted to be able to see what material they were doing well with and what they were struggling with before we conducted the lab review session – we wanted to make sure we were focused on important material. For the most part, students seemed to enjoy it, and it was very simple for me to go through and evaluate their responses in lab before we began review material. The only downfall of this was that I didn’t see a way to publish the correct answers for them after they took the quiz (I originally hadn’t anticipated them wanting the answers, as I had designed it to help me guide the review, but I was very mistaken). However, I just created an answer key for them and left the link live and the answers posted below it so that they could use it as a study tool if they wanted to.

 

Overall, I think that the Google Forms are great and extremely user-friendly. Creating the quizzes and surveys are incredibly easy, and you’re able to link your responses to a new Google Excel Sheet, or link the responses to an existing sheet (Go to Responses –> Choose Response Destination –> New Sheet in an Existing Spreadsheet –> and then you can choose the sheet you want from your google drive). It’s also a great tool for things like sign up sheets for student projects (like we filled out for this course), and could possibly be used as warm-up quizzes/ attendance quizzes for course content at the beginning of labs for easier reviewing by TAs.

 

The only downfalls that I’ve experienced so far are (1) you cannot duplicate whole documents, just questions within those documents, and (2) I haven’t seen a way to release correct answers to the forms that students fill in [this does NOT mean that the option doesn’t exist – just that I haven’t found it] and (3) some students have trouble accessing the survey if you have the option of requiring them to login via VCU – I’ve been told that it’s an @mymail.vcu.edu versus @vcu.edu issue with the accounts; however, we removed that option for the quiz and everyone was able to access. Just remember that if you do make it open-access and need to know who submitted which response, you should create an item that instructs them to enter their name and/or email address, otherwise their responses will be anonymous.

 

As someone who despises technology and has trouble with even the most basic of tasks requiring the use of technology, Google Forms have been amazing. They’re very simple to use, they look very organized [a student even commented that the quiz looked very well-made], and managing the responses is so simple. CJ and I even share our forms and the response Excel Sheets and we haven’t had trouble with staying organized.

Diigo

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Submitted by Sarah Griffin

The website Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other Stuff, or Diigo, is a site that allows users to actively engage with the internet. Essentially, it allows one to bookmark, mark up, and share while browsing the web. This could prove to be very useful given that when I am on the internet I have the mental capacity of a brain damaged gerbil. The ability to note important points and track internet activity could organize the hours of “research” on various topics, especially major projects such as theses or prelims.

The website has many features which diigo and many random internet users (to include Rai Azlan, Tyler Manolovitz, and a hodgepodge of youtubers) have documented. To sum up the main ones:

  1. Allows you to create essentially a library of links and pdfs.
  2. Allows you to highlight key parts of these links and pdfs (you will be able to see the text that you highlight in your library).
  3. Allows you to create “Outliners”, which is basically a file where you can compile links/pdfs from your library, add notes, and share with others.

I almost made you a diigo outliner on how to diigo but then decided that I am too cheap to use up one of my 5 free ones. Which brings me to an important point: there is a basic version of diigo which is free, but it has limitations. Click here for details.

This is where the facts end and my thoughts begin. If you were simply interested  in how to use diigo please go on your way; if you are interested in my reflections on the educational utility of diigo read on. I think that diigo has the most use in research, but like most good tools can be effectively used in multiple domains, to include education.  First, it could be used to teach students how to interact with the web. Actively engaging while reading is an important skill, and diigo is an excellent way to teach this over the internet (where we do a lot of reading these days). Second, it could be used to help students collaborate on research projects. And finally, it could be used to compile materials relevant to a class or to teaching in general.

Diigo is fairly straightforward, but it took me a little while to get comfortable with it and I bet I will discover more features as I continue to use it (this still happens with my iphone). It would also likely take some effort to get into the habit of using it, but seems like this would be a worthwhile investment given its potential to save time and effort in the long run.

 

 

Jing screencast for SPSS

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Submitted by Dave S

I recently created a screencast – using the Jing application – instructing students how to obtain descriptive statistics, frequencies, and a histogram in SPSS. I chose to create a screencast because students often express concern over navigating SPSS outside of class, in part due to their inability to follow along with some examples in class.

Jing is a free application that is easy to download (it only takes about 5 minutes) and navigate. The one main downside of this application is that, although free, it limits users to a five minute screencast. The only other issue that I ran into with this application was using it on Mac. It is important to note that all of your web browsers (i.e., Safari, Chrome, Firefox) must have the most recent flash player, or the application will not let you view your recently created screencast.

Jing was helpful in several domains. It allowed me to understand at what pace I tend to explain certain material and if I need to speed up or slow down. In addition, it makes me aware of when I use improper terminology to explain specific concepts. Lastly, it can be a great private tool for practicing to lecture certain material that you may find particularly difficult to explain and you would like to hear yourself attempt to present it. In sum, Jing is a useful application, especially for students using advanced computer software such as SPSS.

Using Jing to Supplement SPSS Instruction

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Submitted by Ariella T

 

In this post, I am going to be discussing applications of Jing specifically as a supplementary tool for teaching SPSS in statistics courses and labs. Jing is a pretty neat tool for what it is: a free, no-frills way to do screen captures with and without voice recording. For purposes of making videos demonstrating SPSS processes based on my lectures and interactive activities, this is more than enough to minimize student confusion after lab.

Like I said before, the first thing about Jing is that it’s pretty uncomplicated. The U.I. is very easy to understand—which is important for TAs whose capacity to learn new things are compromised by the rest of the grad school gauntlet.

A caveat of the program is that there is a five-minute hard limit on recording time, but I haven’t really needed anything near that length. Chaining multiple short screen casts can also be an exercise in brevity, and who doesn’t like the opportunity to practice public speaking? This brings me to another limitation of the program: there’s no rewind. Make an error? Do it over. So, it’s important to make sure any distractors are silenced and program pop-ups don’t occur (students don’t need to know who is Skyping you or that Steam has an update). This detracts a bit from usability, especially if you’re a perfectionist about cursor movements. Otherwise, it’s not a huge issue if the screencasts aren’t too lengthy.

Another nice feature is that it can record sound (if you have a mic). I didn’t use this tool very much since speech is another thing I’d end up being a perfectionist about. However, it is an option. I’ve been thinking of leaving the mic on with background music, which is another sound option (by playing your music with the mic on–Jing doesn’t come with any music loops for the aspiring dubstep statistician).

For now, I’ve kept it as the native Flash file and link that is produced by default after saving a screencast. For the more tech savvy, you can bypass this and export the media file if you’d like to edit or upload it on other programs.

I’ve gotten good feedback from students about using it. It’s also nice to be able to direct questions to the links, instead of writing out steps in email, and is good for troubleshooting exactly where student or SPSS user confusion stems from. Overall, I’m pleased with it. Instructors needing the ability to edit or to do lengthier or more nuanced videos should look for its paid counterparts.

For now, I’ve kept it as the native Flash file and link that is produced by default after saving a screencast. For the more tech savvy, you can bypass this and export the media file if you’d like to edit or upload it on other programs.

I’ve gotten good feedback from students about using it. It’s also nice to be able to direct questions to the links, instead of writing out steps in email, and is good for troubleshooting exactly where student or SPSS user confusion stems from. Overall, I’m pleased with it. Instructors needing the ability to edit or to do lengthier or more nuanced videos should look for its paid counterparts.

Active Processing via Write-to-Learn Assignments: Learning and Retention Benefits in Introductory Psychology

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Submitted by Jesse Wingate

Article Reference

Gingerich, K. J., Bugg, J. M., Doe, S. R., Rowland, C. A., Richards, T. L., Tompkins, S. A., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Active processing via write-to-learn assignments: Learning and retention benefits in introductory psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 41, 303-308.

Article DOI

10.1177/0098628314549701

Summary of Article

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to evaluate write-to-learn (WTL) assignments in introductory psychology courses. Specifically, the investigators sought to (1) assess the learning benefit of WTL assignments and to (2) determine if such a benefit was indicative of a deeper conceptual understanding of content delivered in class lectures.

Method

The study employed a within-subjects design where three instructors taught two sections of introductory psychology each. Each instructor administered 12 WTL assignments and 12 copy (control) assignments to each class throughout the semester. The WTL assignments required that students develop their own examples when referencing concepts, whereas the control assignments required that students copy the instructor examples. Each condition was counterbalanced to account for differences related to content and instruction. All participants (N=816) were tested and graded on both WTL assignment and the control assignment content. To assess retention benefits of WTL assignments, students were given an option to take a 6-week post-course multiple-choice exam on content from both the WTL and control assignment content.

Results

The WTL assignments produced a learning benefit (4%) for students in comparison with the control condition. Additionally, WTL assignments aided in retention of conceptual content (2%) when assessed several weeks after the completion of the course.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you complete write-to-learn assignments in your undergraduate psychology courses? If so, were they helpful?
  2. What would prevent you from using write-to-learn assignments in your teaching assignment?
  3. The study reported a small retention benefit of using write-to-learn assignments in the classroom. In your opinion, what aspects of write-to-learn activities aid in retention?

The Pen is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking

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Submitted by Erin Smith

Article Reference

Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25, 1159-1169.

Article DOI

DOI: 10.1177/0956797614524581

Summary of Article

Purpose: This study investigated differences in academic performance between laptop versus longhand note taking.

Method: In each of the three studies, participants watched five TED Talks.

Study 1: In the first study, participants were instructed to take notes how they normally would in class. Participants then completed two distractor tasks and a working-memory task. The last task consisted of recall and conceptual questions from the lecture.

Study 2: Study 2 was conducted to determine if instructing students to not take verbatim notes could prevent the negative effects associated with laptop note taking. Participants were then given a typing test, academic self-efficacy scales, the Need for Cognition scale, and a shorter version of the reading task from study 1.

Study 3: The final study investigated if the disadvantages associated with laptop note taking are buffered by enhanced external storage. Participants used either laptops or pen and paper to take notes on a lecture, and told they would be tested on the material in a week. Upon returning to the lab, participants had 10 minutes to study their notes.

Results/Conclusion: Note taking with laptops was associated with shallower processing. Participants who took notes longhand performed better on conceptual questions than students who took notes on laptops. Laptops were also associated with transcribing lectures verbatim as opposed to processing the information from the lecture and writing notes in their own words. The authors suggest that instructors should proceed with caution when allowing laptops in the classroom.

Discussion Questions

  1. 1. What are your personal opinions on using pens/pencils vs. a laptop in the classroom? Which method of note taking do you personally prefer, and why?
  2. 2. Based on your personal experience and results of this study, would you allow laptops/other technology in your own classroom? Why or why not?
  3. 3. The results of Mueller & Oppenheimer’s study suggest that students who type their notes have shallower cognitive processing compared to students who write their notes. What activities would you include in your classroom to encourage deeper processing of information?

Using Humor in the Classroom

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Submitted by Tarah Raldiris

Article Reference

Hackathorn, J., Garczynski, A. M., Blankmeyer, K., Tennial, R. D., & Solomon, E. D. (2011). All kidding aside: Humor increases learning at knowledge and comprehension levels.  Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 11, 116-123.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

The purpose of this study was to research the effects of humor on the learning of concepts within a classroom environment. The authors were interested in studying the effect of humor on three levels of thought as described by Bloom’s taxonomy: knowledge, comprehension, and application. The researchers hypothesized that students would score higher on measurements of knowledge, comprehension, and application for concepts taught with humor than for concepts taught without humor.  Further, it was hypothesized that humor would have the greatest beneficial effect on scores for comprehension. With a sample of N = 51, the authors used a within-subjects design to compare the scores for concepts learned with humor to scores on concepts learned without humor. Partially supporting their hypotheses, results indicated that students performed significantly better on measurements of knowledge and comprehension for the concepts taught with humor versus without humor, but no significant effect of humor was seen for application. As predicted, for the concepts taught with humor, scores for comprehension were significantly greater than scores for knowledge. This study added to the literature by being the first to measure the effect of humor on higher order levels of thought for concepts learned within an actual classroom environment.

 

Discussion Questions

  1. What are your personal opinions or experiences of a professor using humor in the classroom? Do you feel it assisted in learning the material? Do you feel it affected other aspects of the learning environment (e.g. class attendance rates, attention to material, perception of the overall course, etc.)?
  2. Consider a specific class you are teaching/TAing for, or a class you hope to teach in the future: What are some ways that you might try incorporating humor into your lecture? Any fears or concerns regarding applying humor to the course?
  3. Do you think all types of humor are equally effective? Can you think of any examples when humor may actually be detrimental to the student’s learning and the classroom environment in general?

Effects of Recording Attendance on Grades in Introductory Psychology

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Submitted by Anna Behler

Article Reference

Shimoff, E., & Catania, A. C. (2001). Effects of recording attendance on grades in Introductory Psychology. Teaching of Psychology, 28(3), 192-195.

Article DOI

Summary of Article

Purpose: The goals of this experiment were two-fold. Firstly, the researchers wanted to test the popular assumption that attendance contributes to better student performance. Secondly, they wanted to explore effective methods for increasing attendance in college courses.

Method: The researchers recorded attendance for 57 undergraduates in an introductory psychology course. The remaining 57 students did not have their attendance officially recorded (although the researchers kept track). Students were aware that attendance would NOT factor in to their final course grade. In addition to tracking attendance, the researchers also analyzed scores on quizzes that were given throughout the semester.

Findings:

1) The mean attendance rate for the semester was significantly higher for students whose attendance was recorded (85.61%) than students whose attendance was not recorded (78.50%).

2) The group whose attendance was recorded performed significantly better on quizzes than the group whose attendance was not recorded. This held true for quiz items that were covered in the textbook as well as for items that were covered only in lecture.

3) Both groups reported that taking attendance did not impact their decision to come to class. The groups did not significantly differ in their responses when asked if recording attendance had (or would have) any impact on their behavior.

Discussion Questions

  1. Based on your own personal experience, what were some factors that led you to decide not to attend a class during your college career?
  2. What methods have you or any of your previous instructors employed that were effective in increasing student attendance?
  3. Do you feel that requiring attendance is helpful or harmful for students? For the class as a whole? For the instructor?